Edward Snowden, who has been living in exile in Russia after leaking American intelligence secrets in 2013, said Monday that he would like to return to the United States if he is guaranteed a fair trial.
“One of the big topics in Europe right now is should Germany and France invite me in to get asylum … And of course I would like to return to the United States. That is the ultimate goal. But if I’m going to spend the rest of my life in prison, the one bottom-line demand that we all have to agree to is that at least I get a fair trial. And that’s the one thing the government has refused to guarantee because they won’t provide access to what’s called a public interest defense,” Snowden told CBS co-hosts Gayle King and Tony Dokoupil on “CBS This Morning.”
He added: “I’m not asking for a parade. I’m not asking for a pardon. I’m not asking for a pass. What I’m asking for is a fair trial. And this is the bottom-line that any American should require.”
Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor, is accused of espionage and theft of government property in the US for leaking volumes of information on American intelligence and surveillance operations to the media. Snowden settled in Moscow after initially traveling to Hong Kong following his 2013 public disclosure of the classified information.
The Russian government granted him asylum soon after and, after receiving a three-year extension to his leave to remain in Russia, the country extended his asylum in 2017 until 2020.
In 2015, Snowden indicated that he is willing to go to prison if he is permitted to return to the United States. In the final weeks of the Obama administration, more than a million supporters petitioned the White House to pardon Snowden, but the administration said he hadn’t submitted official documents requesting clemency.
Snowden’s remarks came a day before the release of his new memoir, “Permanent Record.”
CNN’s Harmeet Kaur, Joel Williams and Konstantin Toropin contributed to this report.